Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mystery Ghost

Yesterday I went to an independent comics festival in Brooklyn called The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival ( Knowing that a few of my favorite comix artists were going to be there, I brought a few of their books to get signed. Here is Gary Panter's autograph in his book, Cola Madnes. (You'd probably best know Gary as the designer of the original Pee Herman TV show from the 1980s, although I think his best and most memorable work has been done in comics and paintings. The man is a true inspiration, and I was honored to meet him and even chat with him for a few minutes. Strangely, he insisted that he knew me from somewhere and that we had met before. It's possible I had met him through a work-related event, but I think I'd remember that! Anyway, below the sketch of what looks like a tree-man chasing a kid on a skateboard, he wrote, "For Ryan from Gary Panter 2009"):

Next (actually Gary was the last one I met, so I'm kinda working backwards here) was Mat Brinkman, one of the original members of the now defunct art collective (if you can call it that) know as Fort Thunder which existed at RISD in Providence for a few years from the late 90s into the beginning of the current decade. Although, he hasn't been as prolific in comics since then, he's still probably my favorite from that group. Of course, I forgot to bring my copy of his book "Teratoid Heights" with me, so I bought his new, oversized (it's enormous) collection of old works called "Multiforce" for $15. Which is great, because I have never been able to find a copy and I got him to sign it for me as well. Here's the cover:

And here's his signature with a little sketch of a skull. It says "Ryan's book / skull sketch / Mat B '09":

Mat was nice and seemed fairly shy, although he smiled and nodded when I complimented him on his Mercyful Fate T-shirt. I also got a small silkscreened postcard from him for $5 along with his signature which can be found very small at the bottom of the left side in this picture:

Next up is Dash Shaw who was at the signing table shortly after I arrived. I had brought my friend's copy of his book, "Bottomless Bellybutton", to get signed for her since she couldn't make it to the show. He went all out, not only signing his name and writing "4 Cyndi" on the first page but drawing a sketch of one of the book's characters that stretched from the first page across the spine and finishing on the final page of the book. It was thrilling to stand there and watch him do this sketch. Here's the first page on which you can see the beginning of the character sketch at the bottom right corner... it continues across the spine...

...and finishes on the back page...

Of course, on the bottom spine of the book, there's more to the scene; a flag...

I thought it was really great of him to do something as intricate as all this instead of just scribbling a quick signature and then moving on to the next person. Very admirable. Anyway, Cyndi was absolutely thrilled and surprised when I gave it back to her. (She had no idea I had taken it with me to have it signed for her.)

So, that's that. What was a miserably cold and wet day outside was made much better by an afternoon spent inside at the Festival.

Oh, and aside from that, I've made a few new posts on the Mystery Ghost blog. Check it out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's Not, Like, 9/11 or Anything...

On the train this morning, a woman got up from her seat and moved toward the exit door with her daughter, a little girl who I'd guess was about six years old, leading the way. As the train began to slow down before the stop, the brakes jerked two or three times, each one harsher than the last, realigning the center of gravity of those who were standing or, in this case, walking. The woman was thrown off balance but quickly grabbed a pole to re-gain her footing while the little girl stumbled forward and nearly fell down. The woman gasped in horror as she watched her daughter trip over her own feet but never fall, and the surrounding passengers - mostly women themselves - mimicked her shock, some of them wheezing a worrisome sigh, a deep inhalation which begins low in the stomach and rises through the chest and then becomes lodged in the throat and stays there, hollow and creaking, as if it were the last breath that they - any of them - would ever choke forth, so dismayed were they over the plight of this little girl who was actually unharmed and most likely wondering what all the fuss was about. Once the train had stopped, the woman rushed across the few feet - which must have seemed more like a million - separating her and her daughter. When she reached her, the woman grabbed the girl forcefully yet lovingly by the shoulders, looked into her eyes and asked, "Are you okay?" The girl looked confused and didn't say anything. She just nodded and revolved her eyes, looking at the people surrounding her, her head remaining motionless. And she thought to herself, "What the hell? It's not like it was 9/11 or anything". And, from now on, when something happens that is far less severe than people make it out to be, that's what I'll say. I'll say, "What the hell? It's not like it was 9/11 or anything".

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Talkin' Baseball

I haven't posted in quite a while, so I thought I'd take a moment to talk a little baseball. The Phillies currently have too many starters for their rotation, and one of them will have to be moved either to the bullpen or elsewhere. To me, it's obvious that J.A. Happ needs to stay in the rotation and they need to make a decision between Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez. As much as Moyer has been inconsistent and has the second highest ERA in the league, it's Pedro who should be the odd man out. The team owes him nothing. He's done nothing for them thus far. So far he's been pretty terrible in his rehab assignments. Everybody seems so impressed that he struck out 11 minor league hitters last night, but that says nothing to me. It's just one game against, again, minor league hitters. And if you step back and take a look past the eye-catching 11 Ks, you'll see that he gave up 4 runs (3 earned) in six innings. You know what that is? That's what's known as a quality start in baseball. Nothing spectacular, just average. In other words, entry level. If you want spectacular, you would do well to look at what Happ did against real major league hitters battling for a playoff spot in a real major league park last night. Here's his line: 9 innings pitched, 10 Ks, and 4 hits. If that doesn't qualify as spectacular, I don't know what does.

But back to Pedro. If he were to string together a few more of those quality minor league starts, then I'd say he might be worth the promotion. But, until then, the team owes him nothing. Having said that, my guess is they will promote him anyway and move Happ to the pen, mainly because of the difference in salaraies between all three players. And I'm sure every team in baseball - not to mention most baseball fans - will only scratch their heads at this move, as it will be a shame to see Happ - one of the team's strongest starters this season - demoted to make room for a has-been pitcher with a questionable arm that has only recently joined the team. Over time, Happ might not prove himself to be a Cy Young Award winner, but he has certainly earned his spot in the rotation this year. I mean, the point is to win games, isn't it? And this kid, so far, has done nothing less than give his team a chance to win every fifth day.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Waiting in line to buy a bottle of soda at a 7-11 the other day, I read the back of the shirt of the guy standing in front of me. It said, "Why should I have to press 1 for English?" in big, white letters, and the "artist" of the "design" even managed to fit an image of a large telephone keypad with a finger pointing at the number 1 next to the text. (I suppose that's just in case you're a fucking moron and don't understand what "press 1" means in the script.) I never did see the front of his shirt, but it must have said "RACIST" or "I AM A RACIST" or "LOOK AT ME, I'M AN IGNORANT WHITE-TRASHY RACIST!" in giant, bold letters across the chest. If it didn't, it should have.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mystery Ghost Posts

I spent the majority of the afternoon updating my long dormant blog, Mystery Ghost. There's a ton of content there now, so check it out if you're bored.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Smile That Wouldn't Stop

As I waited for the train to take me home from work, a man appeared next to me. I never heard or saw him coming.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Sair?”

“Yeah?” I replied, immediately understanding that “sair” meant “sir”. I turned my attention from my newspaper and looked over at him. He was short and dark like a shadow and he had an enormous smile that wouldn’t stop. His teeth were as white and dull as chalk.

“The train…eh…when…?” he asked, his nasally voice thin and harsh. He separated his hands in the air. “Eh,” he continued, “the train comes…?”

I could see that he was having difficulties with the language, so I interpreted his question for him. “How often does the train come?” I said.

His eyes widened. “Yes!” he said, pronouncing “yes” as “yays”, saying it in a hushed way, and hanging on the S like a snake.

“Every few minutes, I guess,” I said. I shrugged and was about to look at my paper again, but he wasn’t done with me.

“Minutes?” he asked and kept smiling.

“Yeah, supposed to”. I shrugged again to shake him off and smirked in a friendly way and went back to my paper. I started to read the first sentence of a new article and forgot about him. A wind came swirling in from a train that wasn’t mine on the opposite platform and blew my hair around and bent my newspaper in an awkward, unreadable way. When a train comes through with all its noise and commotion, most people react to it in some way even if they’ve just been staring at nothing. I’ve seen children covering their ears, women holding their skirts, and grown men crouching on the ground. Occasionally, I hide behind one of the columns and shield my eyes from any flying debris. It might seem like paranoia, but it comes from knowing a woman who had to have a tiny metal fragment removed from her eye. Sometimes paranoia is justified.

After the train moved on and I stiffened my paper to read again, I realized my dark little friend was still standing there and he was still smiling up at me.

“Sair?” he said.

“Yeah?” I said. I was beginning to feel like a father humoring the nagging questions of his son. I was expecting him to tug at my sleeve next.

“Who make,” he said, then paused. “Who make the train,” he said, paused again, and then held his hands before him, palms up, and continued, “All this?”

“What? The subway system?” I guessed.

“Yays!” he hissed. He seemed so excited when I got him right.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. I raised my head and looked off into the distance as if I were pondering the thought. “City workers, I guess.”

He nodded his head. “How long? Eh…” he looked around searching for the words to finish his thought. “How…old…how old…” He tightened his lips and squinted his eyes as if he had just tasted something sour. He seemed frustrated that he couldn’t find the words, so I spoke for him again.

“How long has it been here, you mean?” I said.


“Oh, a long time, I guess.”

“How long?” He got excited. “One hundred…five hundred year?”

“No,” I said and chuckled a little at his enthusiasm. “Not that long; certainly less than a hundred.”

“Who watch it?” he asked. He lost his smile a little and looked a little more curious.

“I don’t know,” I said and looked away. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was getting at, and I didn’t feel like guessing at answers anymore just to pacify him.

“You have…manual…eh…blueprint…?” he asked.

“Blueprint?” I said. I looked at him with amazement and laughed awkwardly at what he said. “No, not me; nothing like that.” I wasn’t sure where this was going, but his questions were suddenly making me uncomfortable. I went back to my paper and started on the first sentence a second time. He wasn’t done with me.

“No?” he asked. I could hear his smile widening again by the tone of his voice.

“Nope,” I said without looking at him. I went back to the beginning of that sentence again. A faint wind began to stir, scattering papers into a dance across the floor. I peaked over the edge and down the tunnel and saw the circular glow of the headlight of an approaching train. I could just barely make out the letter of the train and knew that it was mine. I closed my eyes. I leaned back against the post, resting my head against it, and held the newspaper up to protect my face. The air around me moved heavy and fast. The train blew its horn. It flew past, rattled the tracks like a jackhammer, and never stopped. It just kept moving fast and blowing its horn, warning us to step away from the edge.

“Damn.” I thought. The train was gone, and something closer to silence resumed.

“Sair?” the little pest said. I couldn’t believe my patience with this guy and I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t find some way to politely ask him to leave me alone.

“Yeah?” I said, looking at him from the corners of my eyes. “What?”

“What…eh…” He was struggling again with the language and pointing down the tunnel after the departed train. “…it’s made of?”

“What? The train?” I asked, showing impatience, “What is the train made of?”

“Yays!” he said. He was happy again.

“Paper,” I replied.

He was quiet. For the first time, I managed to shut him up. I thought maybe he would take the hint that I didn’t appreciate his company any more. His brow furrowed and his mouth turned to a frown. His chin tightened and little dimples formed there. He was troubled by my answer.

“Paper?” he said. He looked confused.

“Yes!” I said in the exact way that he had been saying to me.

“Paper?” he repeated. “The train is paper?” He looked at me like a dumb kid who couldn’t make sense of anything in the world.

“Sure,” I said, no longer feigning enthusiasm.

“Aw,” he growled and smiled again. “No,” he said, “you play…you fool me now!”

He laughed, but I showed no amusement. I shrugged and looked at my paper again. I thought my false answer would make him understand that I didn’t want to speak with him anymore, but he seemed to take it as an act of friendship.

He started up again like a child. “What about that?” he said, pointing at the wall across from us. “It’s made of…?”

“What?” I asked without looking at him. “The wall?” I stared at my paper as if I were reading it, even though I couldn’t. “How should I know?” I shook my head with annoyance.

“Same as this, right?” he said, pointing at the column I was leaning against.

“Yeah, sure, I don’t know.” I didn’t look at him. “Whatever you want it to be.”

“Iron, right?” He patted it with an open hand. “Yays, iron.”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t look at him. He was moving too close to me and I didn’t like it.

“It make from iron!” he said. He was smiling and he seemed so happy about something.

I couldn’t help but wonder why a man – a foreign man – would ask for such detailed information about the New York subway system. Asking about blueprints and what things are made of seemed strange and almost like a joke to me, so I began to wonder if he was putting me on for some reason. I forced myself to look at him again. I hardened my stare and I didn’t return his smile. There was an impenetrable eeriness beyond his innocent demeanor and it was apparent that he wasn’t putting me on. He had originally seemed harmless, but his behavior and strange questions were putting me on edge.

“Right?” he asked. “It make from iron!”

“Sure,” I said. I went quiet and looked away. Another wind from another approaching train made the people on the platform adjust their positions, some turning away in self-defense from the beating they were about to take as the train got closer and the winds got stronger while others moved forward to gain advantage of being the first through the doors when the train stopped. I got a look at the blurred letter on the side of the train as it swept by me. It wasn’t mine. It eventually stopped and then moved on again, leaving me alone with this unsettling companion.

“Train come soon, right?” he asked.

“Supposed to,” I replied, trying to ignore him.

“Train come in few minutes, right?” he asked.

“I sure hope so,” I said.

He finally quieted down and I was able to start reading my newspaper again. I forgot about him after a few minutes. I didn’t want to look in his direction to confirm that he was gone because I was afraid that he would still be standing there and take it as an invitation to talk again, but I was sure that he had gone away. I could sense that his presence had vanished.

My train finally came and this time it stopped. It was as packed as usual for that early in the evening, and I forced my way through the crowd of people standing just inside the door. I saw an empty spot on a seat between a fat man and a small, old lady. I took it. I sighed from the relief of finally having lost that strange man as I sat down. I put him out of my mind, raised my paper before me, and started reading again. It was a tight fit in that seat, but I made it work.

At the next stop, the fat man got off the train. I lowered my newspaper and slid over into his place. As others were getting off and getting on, I looked up and saw that strange little man’s dark, smiling face hovering above me. He didn’t say anything this time. He just stood there smiling. It was a strange shift of perception looking up at him as he stared down at me instead of the other way around as it had been on the platform.

I nodded my head slightly, almost imperceptibly, but showed no emotion. I went back to ignoring him and reading the paper, but I could still sense him standing there and staring down at me. Whatever relief I had been feeling was now altered by his return.

After a few more stops, he took a seat across from me and a few feet to the right. I couldn’t resist sneaking a look at him, but I saw that he was already looking at me when I looked at him. He was still smiling at me. A horrible feeling of dread came over me. I felt like I was in the company of evil. I looked away not knowing what he wanted or where this strange game was going.

I got off at my stop wondering if he would follow me. I walked about halfway up the steps and peaked down at the train and saw that he was still sitting in his seat. His body was facing away from me, but his head was turned around and he was staring at me through the window. As my eyes met his, a cold shiver ran through my body.

The doors closed and the train pushed off. I continued up the steps, went through the turnstiles, and walked until I found a train attendant in one of the kiosks. There was a woman sitting in there, so I got her attention and told her about the man’s odd behavior and the strange questions that he had been asking. She looked at me through the plastic window separating us and said, “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah,” I said. “You know, ‘If you see something, say something’,” I said, referring to the notices that were sometimes posted on the trains and waiting areas.

“Well, what did you see?” she asked.

“I didn’t see anything,” I said. “It was more about the things he said and the way he acted.” I was beginning to doubt the relevance of the situation as I heard myself speaking about it.

“Did you get his name?”

“No,” I said. I was dumbfounded.

“Did he tell you where he was going?”

“No,” I said and stared at her a moment. “Why would he?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “You said he said things.”

“Yeah, I already told you what he said,” I said. “Look, he was still on the train when I got off, so maybe you could have somebody look for him and question him when he gets off.”

She looked at me for a moment with no expression.

“Yeah,” she said. “We’ll do that.” I couldn’t tell if she was being serious or sarcastic.

“Look,” I continued. “I’m just trying to help and do what I thought was the right thing to do. It’s probably nothing, but I thought it was worth mentioning.”

“Okay,” she said. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it.” She spoke calmly and smiled.

I walked away unsure of everything, and I went home feeling like I shouldn’t have said anything at all.